inviting spontaneity on a pesky day off school

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Tubular bind-off for the shawl collar on M's cardigan.
Tubular bind-off at the playground

I spent yesterday at home with M, since she didn’t have school. Well, I say “at home”, but really, we spent as much of the day outside as possible! The weather was amazing. I was feeling a bit (ok, more than a bit) overwhelmed, between the work I need to catch up on for the classes and workshops I’m teaching, and the knitting that I need to get done before Rhinebeck, and had been resenting the fact that I had to stay home with her when I was so busy. But I decided yesterday morning that I would treat this day I’d been dreading as a sort of spiritual exercise (our theme this month at First Unitarian is “Letting Go”, which is a skill I definitely need to practice!), and follow M’s whims as much as possible. We don’t actually get to have very much undirected time together during the school year – our schedules just don’t have very much “give” to them. For all the talk of how “flexible” academic jobs are, well…I suppose they are in their own way, but realistically my job during the semester is probably more than full time (given all of the time I need to spend outside of class time giving feedback and prepping and whatnot), and the times when I have to be IN the classroom (either my own, or a class where I’m running a workshop) or in meetings are anything BUT flexible! So spontaneity isn’t a big part of my life right now.

We started the morning with “letter work” – M has very suddenly become obsessed with learning to write, and has been asking me to help her spell specific words. The lists of words she wants to spell are so charming and fascinating to me – yesterday, it was “DUCK”, “MONSTER”, “GOOD”, “BEAUTIFUL”, “PERFECT”, “GREAT”, and “TREE”.

Practicing letters! (Not sure why she wanted to write "duck monster", but it's awesome!)

She is so, so excited about being able to write things that I can read. Even if they’re kind of random letter strings…she gets a kick out of me pronouncing them to her! She used to just write zigzags on things when she wanted to “write”, but yesterday she said to me very excitedly, “mama, now I don’t have to write zigzags on everything, I can write LETTERS!” Yes, kiddo, yes you can! And because I’m a huge nerd/linguist/writing teacher, we had a little talk about how shared knowledge is necessary for communication, and that’s why she can’t just use “her U” (her first attempt looked more like a Q, oddly) to write “DUCK”, because it’s not the “U” that we all share and recognize as “U”. And now I think I need to dig out my Alice in Wonderland book and read to her about Humpty Dumpty and his words that mean whatever he wants them to mean :)

Then we watched a Reading Rainbow episode together, and in it, they mentioned having a picnic, which led M to request (for probably the 100th time) a “picnic at the beach”. We’ve never actually been able to make it happen, due to the aforementioned busy schedules, but I had the glorious realization yesterday that…hey, we actually COULD! It was delightful (but also a bit disorienting – I am not generally a person who handles unplanned activities with grace) to be able to say “YES” to something like that! We took our little PlanetBoxes up to the beach and had our lunches with the lovely view of Lake Ontario in the background.

Lunchtime view.

I love how easy the PlanetBoxes made this – we just opened them up on top of our beach towels and had everything we needed. Seriously, I know I probably sound like an informercial here and I know PlanetBoxes are a bit pricey but they are absolutely the BEST reusable lunchboxes I’ve ever found, and I’m so glad that M and I both have them now.

Beach picnic! She's been asking for one for ages and today it's actually possible, so here we are.

It was a wonderful day for soaking in the sunlight – we probably won’t have another day this warm and sunny for 6 months!

Soaking in the sun. Probably the last day like this we'll have for 6 months!

I’m not gonna lie – I’m so unused to spontaneity that I had this nagging sense of “I’m not supposed to be here, this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing” the whole time we were at the beach. Like I was going to get “caught” going off-plan, or something! As I said, I’m definitely a person who needs some practice at letting go of plans and schedules.

After the beach, we headed to the playground, where (after pushing her in the swings for probably 40 minutes straight!) I took advantage of M’s brief period of willingness to play without me to work on the tubular bind-off for her garter-rib cardigan (pictured at the top of this post). She checked in with me a few times, always with a beaming smile.

Happy girl at the playground!

I’d started the shawl collar on Sunday, and holy moly shawl collars have a lot of stitches! And the kitchener-based bind-off isn’t the easiest one to do “on the move”, but I did make some good progress at the playground. And I got to finish the bind-off (and knit 2 pockets!) at Knitting Guild in the evening, so now I’ve just got to kitchener the underarms, sew on the pockets, and weave in the ends before I block it. I want to block it on Wednesday night so that I’m sure it’ll be dry for us to pack up and bring down to Rhinebeck – I’m sure I can sew on buttons in the car if I need to.

We followed up our playground time with baking – she helped me make the dough for the loaves of bread we’re baking for the teachers’ lunch at her school (it’s her classroom’s turn to provide the meal), and then helped me make apple cake with some of the apples, but I managed to leave out ALL of the sugar, which made the dough very stiff and nearly unworkable. I’m told it actually tastes ok (I didn’t get a chance to eat any before Guild), but we both had a good laugh about mama leaving the sugar out of cake! I really do enjoy baking with M, when we’re not under time pressure. I’m not sure how to put more “give” into our lives (and I’m definitely not going to ask for more days where M doesn’t have school during my teaching semesters!), but I do think that yesterday showed me how much fun M and I can have together when we’re not beholden to a particular plan or schedule. A worthy exercise. (And now I must return to workworkwork.)

oh, October, i love you.

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I love October, y'all.

This weekend, you guys. The weather. It’s been glorious, in the way that only mid-October weather can be. And what better thing to do on a glorious October weekend than go apple picking?

Strong girl!

M showed off her strength, and the same sweater and hat ensemble she wore at Rhinebeck last year, carrying around a full bucket of apples she helped pick.

Teamwork!

We made a good team once the bucket got TOO heavy. Gosh, I can’t get over how long M’s hair has gotten! She’s looking so grown-up now.

Maddy got a pumpkin of her own. She's looking forward to decorating it!

She was very excited to find pumpkins that were small enough for her to carry!

A girl and her pumpkin.

The one she found even had a stem that was shaped like a little handle. We ended up getting two…

A pumpkin!

…and M is very excited to decorate them for Halloween. On that note, I’d best get cracking on her costume – she wants to be an octopus, and I’ve been playing around with ideas of how to make her a sort of hooded “poncho” with tentacles like she wants. Given that my sewing machine is currently on the fritz, I think I’ll be hand-stitching, which I’m actually more comfortable with compared to machine-sewing, but it’s SLOW, and October’s almost half over!

But before that, there’s Rhinebeck – and oh boy, do I have my work cut out for me on that front. I’ve given up hope of finishing my Stripes! cardigan (I figure I’ve knit 3 shawls this year, so if I don’t have a new sweater to show off, so be it!), but am aiming to finish M’s (bigger) garter rib cardigan, and to (finally) sew up the squares for the Mitered Crosses blanket. I’ve been knitting away on the shawl collar/buttonband this weekend, and blocking pairs of squares, too. M’s been helping me with the latter, and it’s so adorable – she’s now talking about taking her baby to “pretend sheep and wool festival” and “teaching” her baby how to “pin out” squares of construction paper…I’m definitely raising a knitter, here! I had photos I wanted to share of the sweater-in-progress and blocked squares, but I took them with my real camera instead of my phone, and they are now trapped in the disaster that is Photos on Mac and I maybe had a bit of a meltdown trying to get them out so that I could post them, somehow, but it turns out no amount of tears or swearing at the computer would actually fix it. Who knew? I’m planning to take real-camera photos at Rhinebeck, so I sure hope I can figure out how to get them to Flickr without going through Photos. (The new “improved” Flickr Uploader has also led to a fair amout of tears and swearing…goodness, all these “improvements” lately have just made photography and blogging, things that should be fun and not that time-consuming, into Sisyphean tasks. I feel like half the computers in my life have become nearly-useless this semester and it’s maddening!)

things i make for maddy (but wish i could keep for myself!): a hat

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I wanna keep it for me!

Yesterday, I finished the 2×2 rib hat that I’ve been knitting from the leftover yarn from the very first hat I ever made for M, back when she was still known only as “the munchkin”. For those who are interested, I cast on 164 stitches on size 2 needles using a sport/heavy sock weight yarn, and knit for 10 inches, and then decreased in a manner that I kind of made up on the fly but it looks ok, so whatever!

Top of the hat. Not 100% sure if I love the way I decreased but it worked, so whatever.

I’d cast on intending it for M, but 2×2 is so very stretchy, and it fit me so nicely, so I thought maybe, maybe she’d let me keep it for myself, if I plied her with yarn she’d previously squealed with joy over, in the Knitpicks catalog (Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in “Turkish Delight”), and promised to knit her a 2×2 ribbed hat from it.

We'll find out tonight whether M wants this hot pink yarn to be a hat or socks.

But alas, my ploy did not work. Yesterday was the Equinox, and I put both the hat and the skein of yarn in M’s gift bag. We do a “Something to Do, Something to Wear, Something to Read” system for our seasonal gift giving, and she was also receiving a really cool dominoes set from Hape (“To Do”), the book “Rosie Revere, Engineer” (“To Read”, obviously!), and a kid-sized baby carrier so that she could wear her baby doll (“To Wear”). I figured that since the “To Wear” part of the gift wasn’t clothes, the hat and skein could go along with it. ANYWAY, I told M that I would very much like to exchange with her, and keep the hat but knit her a pink hat with the skein of yarn I’d bought just for her, to which she replied, “No, mama, you knit the hat for me, and I want the pink yarn to be SOCKS.” Oh, dear child, I’m glad you are not afraid to assert your wishes clearly, and I love you, so it’s yours…the hat, AND the yarn, which I will turn into socks for you.

Finished hat (in time for Equinox celebrations!), plus the skein through which I hope to "purchase" said hat from M :)

I can’t complain too much – at least I have a recipient who passionately loves the things I knit for her!

199 weeks with M

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This morning, M told me she’d do something (I don’t remember what, at this point) in “199 weeks”. I noted to her that 199 weeks was almost 4 whole years – and then realized that M, also, is almost 4 whole years old. I was curious, so I checked the calendar, and she is actually 199 weeks old THIS WEEK! I stopped keeping track of how many weeks old she was when she turned one, so I’m glad she randomly mentioned 199 weeks today because I think it’s a pretty nifty milestone!

Wearing our woolens in the garden after church. Such a lovely cool morning!
In the garden after church this past weekend

I’m so glad that M came into my life 199 weeks ago, even though I’d say the first half of those 199 weeks included some of the darkest days of my life. But. But. The person I’ve grown into, and the relationship I’ve developed with her – those have been the gifts of these 199 weeks of life as parent, these weeks that would be basically unrecognizable as “my life” to the person I was before M was born. And now I can’t imagine life any other way.

I scrolled through Flickr today, inspired by this arbitrary milestone, and laughed at how many pictures I’ve taken of just me and my girl. Child of mine, you bring me so much joy. (And pain and stress and sleep-deprivation, but let’s focus on the joy! Indulge me as I post a million photos, dear Readers.)

"Mama, take a picture of us looking silly together!"  Ok, kiddo!
Giggling on the couch

It's always windy up at the lake.
Windswept at the beach

Huddled up together.
Under your umbrella, ella, ella…

All dolled up.
Dolled up at a wedding

She likes to lay on my back on the bed. She calls it "playing alligator" for some reason :)
Flying on the bed

Getting snuggled :)
You give such great snuggles!

Me and my girl (finally got commencement-day photos off the DSLR)
You and my dissertation grew up together, kiddo!

Yeah, we're weirdos.
I love how wacky you are!

Us, after finishing the "fun run" (M's school had a 5k race today, which A ran, followed by a 1/4mile fun run, which M and I ran, holding hands)
And I love how much you love the things I knit for you

Me and my girl. I love this kid so much.
You can be so unbelievably sweet

Tired ladies.
We’ve been sick together so many times in these 199 weeks

Maddy and mama
And you’ve had so many rides on my back…

2013: Day 31 - a ride on mama's back
…not all of them in the carrier!

maddySMASH!
Oh, my little MaddySMASH…

Walkway Over The Hudson
You’ve been a wonderful Rhinebeck companion these last 3 years

this kid.
I love you so much

Nose to nose
So very very much

Me and my girl
I remember when your daddy took this photo – as I snuggled you, I felt the first truly intense wave of love for you wash over me, 8 weeks after you were born

Maddy and me in our matching sweaters
We’ve had matching sweaters from the very beginning

Madrigal Alice Harrison Watts, 7lbs 6.8oz, born 10:26am. We are in love!
Where it all began
(though I have no memory of this picture being taken, I’ll always treasure it.)

199 weeks in the books!

hats!

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Now that I’m back to a regular teaching schedule and M is back to all sorts of activities, I’ve rediscovered my love of small, mindless projects – things I can knit wherever I am, whether it’s sitting at the pool during a swim lesson…

Pike swim lessons - I don't have to be in the water with her anymore and that's pretty awesome!

…waiting for the service to begin at my UU church…

Knitting before the service at my UU church, wearing a shawl because it's SO COLD today!

…walking home from the bus after a long day on campus…

Knitting while walking home from the bus. 2x2 rib is perfect for mindless knitting to keep my hands busy!

…or watching an episode of Portlandia with my husband before bedtime.

8:30pm - knitting and Portlandia before bed. #adayinthelifephotochallenge

This 2×2 rib tube has kept my hands busy for the past week.

A tube! This has kept my hands busy for the past week or so. Leftover yarn from M's very first hat.

It’s going to be a hat, eventually. I’m using the yarn from the very first hat I ever knit for M, back when she was only known as “the munchkin”:

hat for the munchkin

Indulge me, but I’ve got to include the picture of her wearing it after here 2 week well baby visit:

Coming home from the pediatrician

Awww. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was looking at those old photos with M, and mentioned to her that I might have enough leftover yarn to make her a hat that would fit her now. She seemed interested, so I cast on (164sts on size 2 needles using Twisted German Cast-On, for anyone who’s interested in details), and knit away, but as the tube grew longer, I grew more worried that the hat was going to be too small – it’s amazing how much 2×2 rib contracts! So, I tried it on my own head:

I'm knitting this for M. Or at least, I meant for it to be hers. But gosh, it fits me, too, and I kinda want to steal it! #badmama

Well, no need to worry – if I can get it on my noggin, it’ll fit hers. But…gosh, now that I’ve tried it on, I want to keep it for myself! It goes so nicely with my blue-green eyes, after all…

It matches my eyes, after all! (M's are chocolate brown). We'll see.

…so, we’ll see. If I do end up stealing my own child’s hat (bad mama!), worry not, there are more hats on the way for her! I recently ordered some more Chroma from Knitpicks (for making more Stripes! cardigans), and while I was at it, threw in a skein of Hawthorne sock yarn in the bright magenta color that M had squealed over when we were looking at the Knitpicks catalog. So my plan is to give that skein to her with her Fall Equinox gifts, and ask her if she’d prefer a hat in that color. I’m pretty sure I’ll get my way with this one :)

And beyond the 2×2 rib hats, I’ve also been plotting a Foxy hat for M. There’s just one problem…

All those teeny balls used to be a single skein of Malabrigo. Then Ren got ahold of it and snuggled it, with teeth. I salvaged what I could and hope it'll still work for a Foxy hat for M!

All those tiny balls used to be a single skein of Malabrigo worsted in “Natural”. Then Ren got ahold of it and snuggled it, with teeth. And, well, I salvaged what I could. I always boggle at folks who have cats and can leave yarn/projects in open baskets or on shelves…not with this cat! I swear, Ren is a wool-seeking missile. And not just for yarn, but for projects, too – unless I get cabinets with glass doors, I will *always* have to hide away all of my knits when I’m not wearing them. Sad! But anyway, I think that despite the damage, I can get a nice-looking Foxy hat out of this:

Future Foxy Hat for M

And all this talk of hats reminds me that I have an almost-ready-to-release pattern/tutorial for the hat (and matching mittens) I knit for M (and for all of her cousins) last year:

a girl and her leaf.

Just gotta look over it and maybe pester my test-knitters for a little more feedback and then I think it’ll be ready to go, in time for last-minute Rhinebeck knitting, even!

on my needles and on my mind

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I had all these grand plans for knitting and pattern-writing this summer, and…well, they didn’t really materialize. I am so very good at doing things in my head (my imaginary knits are incredible, you guys!), but actually doing them in reality is sometimes beyond my grasp. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I spend so much time daydreaming when I could actually be doing, but I’m not sure I’d have any motivation to do if it weren’t for the daydreaming…the trouble, as with pretty much everything in life, is finding a good balance! And then of course there’s the problem of feeling like I’ve accomplished something just by deciding that I’ll do it, and then forgetting to, you know, actually do it. I get stuck at step one. Oh, adulting. It’s hard.

But anyway, I did knit quite a bit this summer, but it was a rather unfocused sort of knitting that resulted in quite a few WIPs and not a whole lot of FOs. But here’s a run-down of the stuff that’s currently on my needles, and if not on my needles just yet, most pressingly on my mind.

Stripes cardi-in-progress for me.

My Stripes! cardigan is still in progress, and now has about 3/4 of a sleeve. I’m really delighted with how it’s turning out, and hope to wear it to Rhinebeck this year. (I’d best get a move on that, since that’s only a little over a month away!) I’m still planning to write up a top-down pattern for both adults and kiddos, and on that note, I’ll be knitting a newborn-sized one quite soon, as a gift to two of the ministers at my UU church – they are expecting their first baby in late November, and I couldn’t think of a better gender-neutral piece of knitwear for two amazing UU ministers than a cardigan with rainbows on it.

Garter Rib cardigan #2 for M

On the knits-for-Rhinebeck front, I also cast on for a second Garter Rib cardigan for M (and, as with Stripes!, have plans to release a pattern once I’ve finished writing/testing it). Her old one was getting a bit snug (though it did fit her for a good long time, thanks to the stretchy garter rib!), so we passed it down to her cousin Emma, along with her old Stripes! cardigan (which reminds me – I’d like to knit M another one of those, too!) Check out the amazing buttons that M chose for her new Garter Rib cardigan (the purple ones were to replace the lost buttons on her old one before we gave it to Emma):

Maddy chose the purple buttons to go on the old garter rib cardi (which she's passing down to cousin Emma) and the awesome octopus ones for her new garter rib cardi (which I'm currently knitting).

I just cast on for the sleeve of M’s new cardigan…gosh, I love tubular cast-ons!

Gosh I just love tubular cast-ons


Other things that have crept onto my needles recently include another pumpkin hat:

Another pumpkin hat (in progress)

And another “padded sweet tomato heel” sock for M:

"Jupiter" sock number one

The colors remind us of Jupiter, so I’ve been calling them “Jupiter” socks. I carried the slipped heel stitch all the way down the sole of the sock, and am happy with how that turned out:

"Padded Sweet Tomato Heel"

I really like Cat Bordhi’s “Padded Sweet Tomato Heel”, though my slipped stitches sometimes do get a little wonky in combination with the short rows. I think it might be because I’m doing the heel over an even number of stitches but her tutorial is over an odd number, so I’m turning on the slipped stitches in a way that she’s not. Something to think about for the next pair!

I also picked up a skein of Feederbrook Farm Entropy (I was getting a skein for my GMDS swap partner, and couldn’t bear not to pick one up for myself, too), which is turning into a Wurm hat for me:

Wurm-to-be (for me)

Those blues and purples just sing to me!

As if all these things aren’t enough, I also really want to knit myself some bootliners, and got a few Pam Powers patterns to get me started. My first pair will be charcoal grey, because that’s a really useful color in my wardrobe:

bootliners-to-be

And I haven’t given up my intention to knit up lots of cowls and other neck adornments, too. And of course there’s my long-stalled Lopi Affection cardigan, the finishing of the Mitered Crosses Blanket, and the never ending and ever-expanding list of both patterns I hope to knit and designs I hope to create from stash yarn, and goodness gracious do I ever have a lot of stash yarn to work through! (And oh gosh, there’s sewing, too…oh, dear brain of mine, there is only one of me!) My fingers can’t keep up with my imagination, but I’m really trying this year to be mindful about my acquisitions, and about actually setting about doing the things I’ve dreamed up. Wish me luck?

back to school!

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Yesterday was the first day of school of the 2015-2016 school year for both M and me!

It's the first day for BOTH of us!

As much of a privilege as it was to get to spend so much of every day with M this summer, I’m not going to lie – I found it to be very, very challenging. My hat goes off to the folks who stay home with their kids, because that’s definitely not a life I’m cut out for. I feel so much more like myself when I’m teaching, and honestly, teaching freshmen about writing and thinking comes WAY more naturally to me than parenting a 3 year old does! It’s very good to feel competent at my daily work again. But I’m sure I will miss being able to do so many fun activities, like our trips up to the beach at Lake Ontario,

Out-of-focus toe-dipping at the beach.
dipping our toes…

We rode the carousel together :)
…riding the carousel (aka “horsey train”)…

Making a sandcastle.
…and building sandcastles!

and our afternoon baking sessions,

We're making oatmeal date cookies!
oatmeal date cookies!

and many, many visits to the playground,

So proud of this kid! She decided to learn how to climb a new thing, and kept at it until she could do it without any help from me!
learning to climb a new thing!

and to Highland Park,

In her favorite tree (at Highland Park)
hanging out with her “special tree friend”

and all those walks with the wagon up to our bed in the community garden:

On our way to do some maintenance at our community garden bed.
she LOVES this wagon!

It’ll be much harder to do most of these things, now that we’re back to full days at school for both of us. Not only that, but we’re already losing noticeable amounts of light at the end of the day, and I’ve lived here long enough to know what’s coming: darkness before we’re even home for the evening. But before that happens, there will be time for apple picking, and Rhinebeck, and hopefully at least some weekend visits to Highland Park and our other beloved gardens and playspaces. And there’s a very exciting new activity that will fill our time together on Friday afternoons, when I pick M up at 3pm instead of 5pm – she’s starting violin lessons at Hochstein! She’s been asking to play violin for a full year now, and I think she’s finally ready to pay attention at a lesson, so here we go! It’ll be interesting to be on the “Suzuki parent” side of things, instead of the (older) “Suzuki student” side of things!

So here’s “goodbye!” to summer, and “hello!” to the new school year. I’ll close with a photo I actually took by accident, but ended up loving…all of M’s summer things, strewn about the porch:

Summer Stuff
her rock and stick “treasures”, her sand bucket, her bubble stuff

Happy new school year, everyone!